The Clayton boys soccer team found itself in the exact same situation as it hosted Smithfield-Selma Wednesday night as it did in it first game of the season.
Tied in the second half against a tough Spartans side, the Comets responded a bit better this time around in registering a 3-2 win over their former Greater Neuse River Conference opponent.
Clayton (1-1) dropped a 3-2 decision to South Johnston to open the season after being tied at the half with the Trojans and despite having opportunities to take the lead late before conceding the game-winning goal.
“I told them at halftime that we were in the same position as last week and we didn’t respond and we had to respond this week,” Clayton coach William Williams said. “We possessed the ball last week but you’ve got to do more than that, you’ve got to put it in, you’ve got to get that one goal to get our season started off.”
Cole Stricker bypassed the Spartan defense with a long ball over the top where Clayton’s Daniel Alioto raced to win possession before fending off his defender to find the back of the net for the game-winning tally midway through the second half.
“I won the ball and saw no one was coming on me so I just took a touch,” Stricker said. “I looked up and saw (Alioto) was making a big run and I played it to him and he did a lot of the work.”
The goal was one of the few good scoring chances for either team in the second half, a stark contrast to the opening 40 minutes when both squads took turns showcasing their offensive firepower.
Clayton took the lead twice in the first half. The first such occasion occurred when Jorge Alonso found Stephen Ruiz on a diagonal feed and Ruiz finished off the opportunity going to the far post a mere 90 seconds into the contest.
After the Spartans tied the score less than two minutes later on a Jose Morales goal, Clayton responded yet again when the hardwork of senior Adam Selah paid off as he won possession of the ball in the corner before crossing to a wide open Brendan Alexyon for the 2-1 advantage.
Smithfield-Selma, playing without a handful of players due to early season injuries, stayed step-for-step with the Comets for the remainder of the first half.
Johnny Ventura, who caused trouble for the Clayton defense all night, ripped a shot from 20 yards out that J.T. Palazzolo was able to get his hands on but Jose Trujillo was there for the rebound to once again level the score.
“I think they played quite well,” first-year Smithfield-Selma coach Raul Mentiver said of his short-handed team. “We have had some injuries this week and last week and we have some of our forwards still injured for two to three weeks so I guess it will take quite awhile to get it all together.
“The guys played great; I can’t complain.”
With both teams managing to put six shots on frame in the first half, the Spartans were only able to muster a pair of long range attempts in the second half as the Comets wore them out with a higher possession style of play.
“I believe the guys were getting tired,” said Mentiver. “We didn’t have too many subs today because of the injuries. Hopefully, that will get much better.”
Christian Reyes posted eight saves for the game for the Spartans (1-2).